In a newly adopted resolution, the European Parliament expresses its deep concerns over potential amendments in the Brazilian constitutional law that could further undermine indigenous peoples’ rights and calls on national authorities to comply with their human rights obligations.
At its monthly plenary session in Strasbourg, the European Parliament (EP) adopted a resolution on the situation of the Guarani and Kaiowá indigenous peoples, characterized by increasing violence and the grabbing of traditional lands. With Brazil in political turmoil and the indigenous peoples even more under threat, the resolution reminds the Brazilian State of its obligations under national and international law, particularly of protecting the Guarani and Kaiowá people from any kind of violence and their constitutional right to their ancestral territory.
Key issues addressed
In its resolution, the EP strongly condemns the violence perpetrated against the indigenous communities of Brazil and deplores the poverty and human rights situation the Guarani and Kaiwoá are facing. On that note, it calls on the Brazilian authorities to “take immediate action to protect indigenous people’s security and to ensure that independent investigations are carried out into the murder and assault of indigenous people in their attempts to defend their human and territorial rights, so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice”.
The EP also reminds the Brazilian authorities of their obligations, including their responsibility to maintain and apply in full, the provisions of the Brazilian Constitution on the protection of individual rights and on the rights of minorities and defenseless ethnic groups like the Guarani and Kaiowá. In the EP’s view, the State of Brazil should observe international human rights standards with respect to indigenous peoples, as required by national law.
The EP also joins Guarani and Kaiowá indigenous peoples and supporting organizations in raising concern over the proposed constitutional amendment 215/2000 (PEC 215), as “it will threaten indigenous land rights by making it possible for anti-Indian interests related to the agro-business, timber, mining and energy industries to block the new indigenous territories from being recognized”. In this regard, Members of European Parliament point out that “companies should be held accountable for any environmental damage and human rights abuses for which they are responsible, and that the EU and the Member States should uphold this as a core principle by making it a binding provision in all trade policies”.
‘New’ threats to indigenous peoples
With long-lasting challenges such as demarcation and homologation of ancestral territories remaining, new threats make the urgency resolution even more opportune. As reported by the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples last March, indigenous peoples in Mato Grosso do Sul are subjects of increasing violence. According to the Special Secretariat of Indigenous Health (SESAI) and the indigenous health district of Mato Grosso do Sul (DSEI-MS), at least 400 indigenous people and 14 indigenous leaders have been murdered over the past 14 years. This adds to the appalling situation of scarcity they face, due to both lack of access to resources and protection: high rates of chronic malnutrition affect the Guarani and Kaiowá communities.
By the same token, the current political turmoil the country is undergoing could further aggravate the situation of the Guarani and Kaiowá, as it risks downgrading their rights within constitutional law. As stressed in the resolution, a “number of initiatives for reform, interpretation and application of the Brazilian Federal Constitution are ongoing, and […] these possible changes could put at risk the indigenous rights recognized by the Constitution”.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
Although EP resolutions are not binding, these are politically very symbolic and express desire to act in a given area. These instruments enable the European institutions to suggest guidelines for coordination of national legislations or administrative practices in a non-binding manner.
Photo © European Union 2016 – Source: EP.